Biography (SGZ): Deng Zhi (Bomiao)

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Deng Zhi (Bomiao)
鄧芝 (伯苗)
(AD ?-251)

San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Translated by and Battleroyale

Deng Zhi, styled Bomiao, hailed from Xinye in Yiyang. He was descended from Deng Yu, Minister of Works in the Han court, and moved to the Shu region at the end of the Han reign. However, his talents were not known right away. At that time, there was one Zhang Yu, attendant officer in the Yizhou office, who was reputed as one skilled in physiognomy. Deng Zhi went to see him. Yu said to Zhi, “Sir, you will have over 70 years of life, attain the rank of General-in-Chief, and be granted the title of marquis.” Upon hearing that Pang Xi, Grand Administrator of Ba Xi commandery, was hospitable to those who possessed talents, Deng Zhi went to seek employment from him. After the First Sovereign [Liu Bei] took control of Yi Province, Deng Zhi served as the head-of-staff of the official residence of Pi Prefecture. Once, the First Sovereign passed by Pi in his travels, and had a conversation with Deng Zhi. He was very impressed by him, and promoted him to be Chief of Pi Prefecture. Later, Deng Zhi was promoted to Grand Administrator of Guanghan. Since he acquired a reputation as being incorrupt and stern, achieving good results wherever he was posted, he was summoned to the capital to be an imperial secretariat.

In time, the First Sovereign deceased at Yong’an. Prior to that, Sun Quan, King of Wu, had requested a truce, and the First Sovereign had sent Song Wei, Fei Yi, among others repeatedly in negotiation. Now, Prime Minister Zhuge Liang deeply feared that Sun Quan, having heard of the First Sovereign’s death, would change his stance; and he knew not what to do. Deng Zhi went to Zhuge Liang and said to him, “Now, with the Lord being young and weak and new to the throne, it is best to send an ambassador to renew our friendship with Wu.” Liang answered, “I had thought about this for a long time, but I had not been able find the right man for the task. However, I have found him today.” Zhi inquired who this might be. Liang said, “No one but you, good sir.” Thus he sent Deng Zhi to on a mission to build peace with Sun Quan. Indeed, Sun Quan was doubtful and hesitant to receive Deng Zhi. So Deng Zhi wrote a request to Sun Quan for an audience, saying thus: “Your humble servant comes on this mission not just for the sake of Shu, but also for the sake of Wu.” Thus Quan received him, and said to him, “We do wish to be in a close alliance with Shu, but we fear that the Lord of Shu is young and weak, that the kingdom is small and constrained, and when Wei decides to take advantage of the situation the kingdom would not be able to protect itself. That is the only reason we are hesitant.” Deng Zhi answered, “The kingdoms of Wu and Shu cover the lands of four provinces. My lord, you are a champion of the world, and Zhuge Liang is also a hero of the times. Shu is secure by the mountainous terrain, and Wu is protected by the Three Rivers. If we combine the strengths of the two kingdoms, and form an alliance as close as the lips and the teeth, we could dominate the world if we choose to advance, and holding back we can still maintain the tripod stance. This is only reasonable. If you, my lord, were to submit to Wei now, Wei would expect your highness to relocate to the capital, or at the very least request your crown prince to serve in the palace. And if you refuse to comply, then they would have a just excuse to attack you, and Shu would likewise take advantage of the situation and send attacking forces down the River. As a result, your highness would no longer possess the lands south of the River.” Sun Quan was silent, and after a long while he said, “What you said is true.” Therefore, he cut off diplomatic ties with Wei. Having decided to join forces with Shu, he sent Zhang Wen to return the visit to Shu.

Subsequently, Shu dispatched Deng Zhi to Wu again. Sun Quan said to Deng Zhi, “Would it not be most joyful if peace should be restored to the empire and the land be administered by the two rulers [of Shu and Wu]?” Deng Zhi replied, “The sky does not have two suns, nor can the world have two kings. If after Wei is defeated and your Lordship has not been clearly granted the Mandate by Heaven yet, then may each ruler display his virtues, and ministers act in full loyalty; the generals shall raise the drumsticks and war-drums, and only then will the battle be begun.” Sun Quan laughed loudly and said, “Master, your honesty and sincerity is beyond question.” Sun Quan then wrote a letter to Zhuge Liang saying, “Ding Gong is fully of flowery words and there is no end to his equivocality; only Deng Zhi can bring about peace and cooperation among our two countries.

When Zhuge Liang went north to Han Zhong, he appointed Deng Zhi as the Central Army Inspector gave him the rank of General who Manifests Prowess. After Zhuge Liang passed away, Deng Zhi was reappointed as a military advisor, given the rank of General of the Front, as well as the designated Inspector of Yan province. He was also conferred the title of Marquis of Yangwu Commune. Not long after, Deng Zhi was placed in charge of Jiangzhou. Sun Quan kept in touch with Deng Zhi for several occasions and sent him generous gifts. In the 6th year of Yanxi (AD 243), Deng Zhi was given the rank of General of Chariots and Cavalry. In the 11th year (AD 248), the people in the Fuling country rebelled and killed the administrative military official, and Deng Zhi led the army to quell the rebellion. He killed their leader and pacified the common folks (1). In the 14th year, Deng Zhi passed away.

Deng Zhi held the rank of General-in-Chief for more than twenty years. During that period, he was fair in serving out rewards and punishments and he cared well for his troops. Deng Zhi relied on the official issue for his personal clothing, daily meals and belongings. He was frugal and did not own private properties. His wife and children thus suffered inevitably from hunger; when he died, he did not leave any extra wealth to his family. Deng Zhi was a firm and direct person who would not hide his feelings or opinions, and he could not mix well with the scholarly class. As such, he was not respected and considered highly by his contemporaries. Jiang Wei was the only one who had a different opinion of him. Deng Zhi’s son Deng Liang inherited his father’s titles. During the Jingyao reign (AD 258-262), he was the Officer of the Left Employment Department under the Imperial Secretariat. In the Jin dynasty, Deng Liang was the Grand Administrator of Guang Han.

(1) Hua Yang Guo Zhi stated: When Deng Zhi attacked Fuling, he saw a black ape climbing along the mountain. Deng Zhi, fond of archery, proceeded to aim at the ape and hit it. However, the monkey plucked out the arrow and rolled up some leaves and branches to cover up the wound. Seeing that, Deng Zhi said, “Alas! I have acted in contrary to nature – I will soon die!” Another account went thus: Deng Zhi saw an ape carrying its child on top of a tree and he shot it with his bow and arrow. He hit the mother but its child plucked out the arrow for her. It then used leaves and branches to cover up her wound. Deng Zhi sighed and he threw his bow into the water, knowing that he would die soon. <return>

Translator Notes
(A) I omitted the first Pei note as it dealt with the meaning of a particular Chinese character and is irrelevant in a translated version. <return>

Copyright © 2004 and Battleroyale
Translated from Chen Shou’s San Guo Zhi with Pei Songzhi’s Annotations